A rollercoaster of policy shifts: Global trends and reproductive health policy in The Gambia.

Global Public Health

PubMedID: 25203251

Sundby J. A rollercoaster of policy shifts: Global trends and reproductive health policy in The Gambia. Glob Public Health. 2014;9(8):894-909.
Global trends influence strategies for health-care delivery in low- and middle-income countries. A drive towards uniformity in the design and delivery of healthcare interventions, rather than solid local adaptations, has come to dominate global health policies. This study is a participatory longitudinal study of how one country in West Africa, The Gambia, has responded to global health policy trends in maternal and reproductive health, based on the authors' experience working as a public health researcher within The Gambia over two decades. The paper demonstrates that though the health system is built largely upon the principles of a decentralised and governed primary care system, as delineated in the Alma-Ata Declaration, the more recent policies of The Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and the GAVI Alliance have had a major influence on local policies. Vertically designed health programmes have not been easily integrated with the existing system, and priorities have been shifted according to shifting donor streams. Local absorptive capacity has been undermined and inequalities exacerbated within the system. This paper problematises national actors' lack of ability to manoeuvre within this policy context. The authors' observations of the consequences in the field over time evoke many questions that warrant discussion, especially regarding the tension between local state autonomy and the donor-driven trend towards uniformity and top-down priority setting.